Hungarian born Romani/ Musician Robi Botos was raised in a musical family and is largely self-taught. Robi began his musical career when he was a child, growing up in Budapest, playing drums and percussion. It was at age seven when Robi first took up piano. Robi immigrated to Canada in 1998 and is now a permanent resident of the country he calls home with his wife and children.
Shortly after coming to Canada, Robi caught the ear of Canadian Jazz great Oscar Peterson and quickly became his protégé. To this day, Robi remains a disciple of Dr. Peterson’s mighty sense of swing and technical virtuosity. Along with this influence, Robi possesses a deep tradition in Romani, Hungarian and European Folk and Classical music. This fusion of North American Bebop, Hard Bop, and Modern Jazz along with the deep tradition of Folk music in Eastern Europe and Romantic Classical music, has formulated a sound and approach that is formidable and unsurpassed. Many of Jazz’s greatest musicians consider Robi to be one of the few young leaders on the piano worldwide. Musicians from Branford Marsalis to Chaka Khan, Al Jarreau, and many more consider Robi to be one of the greats on the instrument.
Robi’s dynamic live performances have earned him international recognition – winning numerous competitions around the world including first prizes at the Montreux Jazz Festival Solo Piano Competition in 2004, third Prize at the Martial Solal Piano Competition in Paris in 2006, and first prize at the Great American Piano Competition in Jacksonville, Florida in 2008. Robi has been nominated for two Juno Awards and won as a part of Mike Downes’ Trio in 2014. At the National Jazz Awards in 2007 Robi was chosen as Keyboardist of the Year, and in 2007 Robi was awarded Best Jazz Artist from NOW Magazine. Robi’s debut album for A440 Entertainment/Universal Music Canada, ‘Place to Place’, was one of the most anticipated Canadian jazz albums of 2011. In 2012, Robi and his trio, with bassist Mike Downes and drummer Morgan Childs, won the coveted TD Grand Jazz Award from the Montreal International Jazz Festival. This award led to a main stage outdoor concert presentation in front of over 5,000 people, and a subsequent invitation to headline their own outdoor concert in 2013.
In June of 2012, Robi was invited by the Edmonton Jazz Festival to open for the legendary Wayne Shorter Quartet. Canada Council helped support this important concert, which led to a friendship with both Wayne Shorter and his pianist Danilo Perez.
In 2013, Robi was involved in two film projects that were significant in his career. The first was the Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon film ‘Arbitrage’, which was nominated for a Golden Globe, and Robi performed the closing scene and end credit recording for the movie. Robi also wrote the score for the Producer Guild Awards nominated ‘A People Uncounted’ which documents the struggles and the rich artistry of the Romani people.
In early March of 2013, Robi was involved in a special commemorative concert to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the legendary Oscar Peterson album, ‘Night Train’. This concert occurred in Oscar’s hometown of Montreal and featured Robi leading the trio with former Oscar Peterson band mates, Order of Canada recipient Dave Young on bass and Alvin Queen on drums. This trio (with Order of Canada recipient Terry Clarke on drums) embarked on a second tour in November 2013, playing in Regina, Edmonton and Vancouver.
Robi has accompanied many great jazz musicians and vocalists in the Canadian music scene for years. One of them is Juno winner, Order of Canada and former CBC Radio host, Molly Johnson. Robi has played in Molly’s bands for over seven years now and tours with her internationally, including recent tours of Japan and France.
A little over a year ago, Robi recorded his second album for A440 Entertainment, ‘Movin’ Forward’. This album features a dream-team rhythm section of Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums and Robert Hurst on bass, with the great Canadian (and New York-based) saxophonist Seamus Blake on tenor, soprano saxophones, and EWI. Jeff and Robert are Grammy-Award winning musicians who are regarded amongst the great bass-drum jazz rhythm sections in Jazz history, having recorded in the seminal quartets of both Branford and Wynton Marsalis in the 1980s and 1990s, leading the resurgence of the ‘young lion’ comeback of Jazz music. Movin’ Forward features a mix of originals, Roma-influenced songs as well as funky grooves, and straight-ahead swing compositions. The album is releasing in Canada on March 24th and will be supported by a short tour in late March with the album band of Seamus, Bob and Jeff. In the Summer of 2015, Robi will be travelling Canada on a three week tour, playing original music from his album release, mixed with songs from his debut album, and classic standards.